Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

Ju-On: The Grudge

The first time I watched this movie, I couldn’t sleep for a week. I just couldn’t close my eyes. I kept thinking about the images from the film and imagining that when I open them, that damn creepy kid would be staring at me. What is it with Japanese horror films with creepy kids?

You may be surprised to learn that this is actually the third movie in the Ju-On series, as the first two films are simply called Ju-On and Ju-On 2. Nevertheless, it’s not really necessary to watch the first two movies to understand the events in this film; however I would recommend watching the first film.

The plot is based on Japanese lore that says that when someone dies in a violent rage, a powerful, evil curse is released. Such a curse is left behind in a home quietly nestled in a typical Japanese suburb. Anyone who ventures inside the house picks up the curse and is doomed to die. Often the victims are tormented by evil spirits for a certain period of time before they meet their end, but sometimes they just up and die.

The layout of the film is such that it follows several characters’ stories, separated in chapters. Sometimes though, an earlier character may be found in a later character’s story because there is a connection between them, such as friends or family members. Another aspect about the plot is that it isn’t always in chronological order, a la Pulp Fiction. Because of this, I was confused the first time I watched it. For example, in one scene, a character is listening to the radio and hears news of the death of another character, but when the next chapter begins you see the “dead” character very much alive! I would recommend keeping track of all the characters’ names to avoid confusion.

One more wacky thing about this film was that it didn’t only play with the chronological order of the stories- it played with the concept of time itself. There is a very strange scene which involved a man experiences a moment of precognition at the same time that his daughter experiences retrocognition. I didn’t think that the scene was necessary to the plot but it was cool.

Now, as for scariness factor, I would say YES! This movie is hella scary. Like I said, I couldn’t sleep for a week after watching this. Director Takashi Shimizu does a great job in setting up the scenes for maximum scariness: darkly lit hallways, characters hesitantly peering around corners, and a creepy soundtrack. That damn unnerving throaty “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a” sound made by one of the evil spirits especially makes my hair stand on end. My sister does a great job mimicking the sound, and when I had first watched the movie she would turn off the lights in the room and make that sound to freak me the hell out.

The ending is rather confusing. It doesn’t provide a sense of closure, but at the same time it doesn’t hint that there will be a sequel.

I wouldn’t recommend Ju-On: The Grudge for everyone since it can be kind of confusing. However, you can always rent the American version instead. Not only does it touch upon the events that lead to the curse, but the storyline is chronological and straightforward. There are also less characters in the American version, which makes for less confusion and a slightly shorter running time. However, if you want to appreciate Japanese horror films for what they are, don’t mind the jumbled chronology of the plot, and want to avoid the pain of Sarah Michelle Gellar trying to speak Japanese, then watch the original Ju-On: The Grudge.

Then again, you can always watch both, as I did.

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November 18, 2005 - Posted by | Foreign, Horror, Japanese Horror

1 Comment »

  1. I saw The Grudge, the only American remake of Ju-On. And yes, .. it was damn scary! Esp. when I’m home alone~! Japs make the scariest horror!

    Comment by drhaisook | February 5, 2006 | Reply

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